Results 1-8of 8 Reviews
New York, New York
October 14, 2007
From journal Five Roasted Ducks in Beijing
by Paul Bacon
Rotherham, United Kingdom
April 1, 2006
From journal Living life to Mao
July 28, 2004
At the entrance are a couple of restaurants, souvenir stands, a youth hostel and a small cable car that goes up to the eighth tower. The colorful buckets look they belong at Disneyland and probably came from there.
The tour allows for 4 hours at the wall, which is plenty of time to hike up to the twelfth tower and back without using the cable car. Before some accidents the hike extended to the 16th tower, but now there is guard just beyond the twelfth. All you have to do is look at how the trail narrows and is at angle NEXT to the wall to understand why.
Unlike other areas, the towers along this section are close together providing momentary breaks. For the most part, Simatai is a hike upwards the entire distance. I spend two hours ascending and one descending.
Another unique aspect of this hike is the reservoir at the beginning of the hike. It makes for a beautiful sight from some of the higher towers. On your return you have the option of taking a zip line near the first tower across the reservoir only to be brought back across by a small boat. The cost is Y35 and didn’t have too many takers, perhaps because the harness seemed to secure you only by Velcro.
Most towers were very well preserved with all the walls and roof completely intact. The views were indescribable. It seemed unfathomable that the high peaks you see in the distance driving up, would be the same ones under your feet a little later. It feels like being on top of the world.
The terrain itself is very rugged and continually changing. Steps could be shallow (toes only) or deep and they could be 5 inches to 18 in height. And still other areas were merely gravel-like rising out of the red dirt.
Although I brought three bottles of water with me I was grateful to have water to purchase along the way at Y3. The hike was difficult but it was the heat and humidity that caused my clothes to become soaked. I wouldn’t have missed this one for anything. And I mean that literally as I had two huge blisters on my heels from walking around Summer Palace the day before.
From journal Beijing Now! Before The Olympics
London, United Kingdom
August 3, 2003
I booked my trip there at the YHA hostel in Beijing. I forget the exact price, but it was extremely cheap.
We set off at 7.30am, heading for Simatai. The section of the wall there hasn't been restored like other sections. That means it can be extremely difficult to walk as it's effectively crumbling - however, it does mean that you are away from most other tourists, traders and get that feeling of 'authenticity'.
Beijing in January is cold, but at the wall it was even colder. I was concerned that I might freeze, but there are people selling hats, gloves and coats at the base if there's anything you need as well as some good places to eat. These services exist for tourists, but it seems they haven't thought to raise the prices to tourist rates.
The only thing to look out for are the girls who attach themselves to each group of tourists and walk with them like tour guides. They are informative and even helpful when you're struggling up the steeper sections, but they aren't doing it for the tip at the end. They actually want you to buy the 120RMB books and postcards they produce when your walk is over.
You may wish to purchase the merchandise, but if you choose not to, they get quite annoyed, even physically grabbing you as you walk away. This happenhed to me and I saw it happen to another couple.
It's not the biggest deal you'll encounter in China, but best be aware that it's coming up if they start talking to you.
From journal Beijing
May 27, 2003
Getting to the wall is really a great moment. All of a sudden you can see the wall on the mountain tops stretching as far as you can see, like a never-ending snake. As it was so early in the season the cable car that usually takes people up to the wall wasn’t running so we all had to walk up and that was OK with me. It took us about 20 minutes just to reach the wall but all of a sudden we had our feet on a part of world history. At Simatai you can choose if you want to go to the left (to Jinshanling) or to the right where you have 15/16 watch towers before you reach the end and it rise up about 1000 meters above sea level. We chose to walk on the right part of the wall. As it was still only early spring, we saw bits of snow left on the wall and in the landscape itself. The wall was really steep in some places and sometimes the steps were narrow. To start with we had some locals following us and they wanted to sell us different stuff, but they eventually stopped tagging along. Time constraints meant that I only got as far as tower 11, but the view just got better and better the higher I got, and I got trigger happy with our camera. The combination of a great view and the scarcity of other tourists made it a truly special experience. On the one hand it is amazing to have walked on something that I have read so much about and see so many pictures of. On the other hand it is hard not to think about all the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into building this wall (in fact it is not one wall but many walls that has been built in different dynasties). Our guide told us that lots of people died in the process of building it and many people were actually buried in the wall itself.
After walking on the wall we went down to the parking lot again. Here you’ll find lots of little shops and restaurant and we had lunch at one place. We just sat down and they brought out lots of food.
From journal A week in Beijing
March 24, 2001
Of course, bring along a sweater during the cooler months, or a good hat and put on loose clothes during summer. At all times, bring along a well-prepared picnic pack with lots of water, because after you venture off the beaten track, you will not find peddlers offering you food and drinks. Bring lots of film too!
It is worth staying up at the Wall till dusk, because it is when the most stunning views get painted in the sky. But by that time, make sure that you are back near the entrance because walking back after sunset is an absolute no-no. The walls are collapsed at many sections, and as I said, one false step...
From journal Unravelling the Legend of the Dragon
San Jose, California
July 2, 2000
We were there at the end of October, not the time to visit the place, as the frigid, polar gusts and the below freezing wind chill factor nearly turned us into blocks of ice. This is where they get you. None of us were prepared for the weather, so the t-shirt vendors, all of which had plenty of hats, gloves, and overcoats for sale, made a fortune. I chose to venture forth with only a light windbreaker. Bad move. I nearly collapsed.
We paid about four American dollars to take the gondola to a point which is halfway up the mountain. For nearly thirty minutes we eased along in the gondola, ever so slowly, with nothing around us except for chocolate brown mountains as far as the eye can see. The desolation of it all is what hits you first. You can't realize how remote certain parts of China are until you actually get there. The wall was omnipresent, twisting and turning its way in, around, and between the sharp mountain tops.
The grueling hike up the rest of the mountain was one of the most difficult 45 minutes I had ever spent, due to the 70 degree slopes, the piercing winds and the freezing temperature. After a rough climb totaling 500 meters, we nearly passed out from the cold.
Once we finally made it to the top, took in the Great Wall and reveled in its grandiosity, the rigors of the climb all became worth it. The overall magnitude of the structure transcends any possible photograph of it. The view was unreal. Again, as far over the horizon as our eyes could see, was the wall, all by itself amidst miles and miles of dirt-colored mountains, most of which were sharp, jagged, and irregularly shaped. It was hard to fathom that the wall itself stretched across China for 1800 more miles than what we could see at this particular location. Like Chinese thought, the whole scenario was a pair of opposites: noble and awe-inspiring, while somehow austere, grim, and uncompromising at the same time.
There was also an intriguing element of danger, since parts of the wall at Simitai have not been reconstructed yet (unlike Badaling), leaving a 1000 foot drop off the edge at certain places. You have to be very careful.
If you go to Simitai, bring lots of film. You'll need it.
From journal Beijing and Environs